Despite all of my best efforts, it appears that I am now a grown-up adult gardener. This perplexing development has been brewing for a while (I mean, I am approaching my mid-forties and my children are both now taller than me, so this shouldn’t come as a surprise… and yet it does). Here is a recent example of why I now identify as an adult (…some of the time):
I have been asked and have accepted the role of trustee of a charity. Now, if that’s not a grown-up position, I do not know what is. I was interviewing my gardening friend and all-round vegetable seed saving superstar, Adam Alexander, earlier this year for an ongoing project and he was telling me, via Zoom, about his role as Vice Chairman of Trustees at Garden Organic. He was looking away from the camera as he conversationally mused on a point, then he suddenly whipped his head around, looked directly at me through the computer screen and said “You should be a trustee. You are exactly who we need on the board”. I laughed and replied something similar to: “Me? I’m a rushed-off-my-feet solo parent with the typical self-employed trait of never saying no to any gardening project and therefore constantly chasing my tail!!!!” To which he said “Exactly! We need folk from all walks of life – not just retirees and academics.” I resisted for a while but, several months on, here I am, sitting on the board of a charity.
I can only hope that I can be helpful to Garden Organic because it, as an organisation, has encouraged and inspired me to stay true to my organic gardening roots (pun always intended). Garden Organic has promoted organic growing for decades (its previous incarnation was as the Henry Doubleday Research Association) and it continues to use the very latest academic research while also harnessing citizen science with inspiring Members’ Experiments. This appeals so much to me. By involving those of us who are out there in our gardens in all weathers, making observations and doing our best to cultivate ‘healthy, productive, sustainable gardens’ (https://gardenorganic.org.uk), Garden Organic remains authentic and accessible. It provides gardeners, who want to do their best for their own little plots and the planet as a whole, with the information that they need to proceed.
Current Members’ Experiments include growing Amaranthus plants to see if these attractive plants, which are widely cultivated in Africa, Asia and the Caribbean for seeds and nutritionally rich leaves, can be successfully grown as a culinary crop in the UK. I have grown Amaranthus cultivars for their ornamental value for years so this is particularly interesting to me. In my small garden, plants must prove themselves to be attractive first. If they also prove to be delicious, then I become a devoted fan. I look forward to seeing the results of this particular experiment published in the triannual Garden Organic magazine, ‘The Organic Way’.
In 2019, as a tribute to 60 years worth of Members’ Experiments, Coventry University (who are closely affiliated with Garden Organic) published an e-book ‘The Garden Organic Members’ Experiments Programme – Celebrating 60 years of Citizen Science in Organic Horticulture’ (https://indd.adobe.com/view/7fca5eed-b3e8-4c92-be11-df955280a832), which highlights just how groundbreaking (again, pun always intended, despite my increasing dedication to no-dig gardening) these experiments were and continue to be. I am constantly returning to the Garden Organic website for words of wisdom and reassurance that I am doing the right thing. When other gardeners, both professional and home, ask me questions of which I am unsure of the correct answer, it is to the Garden Organic website that I go.
I never profess to be an expert in my field. My gardening experience has been broad and many faceted so I know a great deal about lots of things, but not in microscopic detail. I rely on my friends, colleagues and specialists further afield, in books, periodicals and online to bolster my learning of organic horticulture. In my role of trustee at Garden Organic I hope to bring the same curious, unaffected energy that I employ in my everyday life as a working gardener and horticultural all-rounder. Adam Alexander was right – I will be a useful trustee.